Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The days after Christmas

Pasi’s Birthday

The day after Christmas was Pasi’s birthday. He would finally turn the age I had a month and a half before. He says he’s been the same age for several years, now, that way he doesn’t have to remember a new number each year.

We offered to make “brunch” so Monica wouldn’t have to worry about another meal. I made a streusel coffee cake while Phil fried up some hash browns, bacon and eggs. We also ate some of the things we had forgotten to eat before, like the baked rutabaga and baked carrot casseroles (very traditional fare from peasant Swedish times). Of course, we bumped into each other in the kitchen while Pasi prepared and decorated his own Birthday Cake.

We barely finished eating and getting the table cleared off before it was time to have birthday tea and cake with Monica’s cousin and best friend (who shares the birthday with Pasi) and her family. It was a good thing we put the leftover coffee cake on the table as one of the daughters was allergic to something on the Birthday Cake. It was fun to add more personalities to the mix. Everyone enjoyed picking on Pasi.

Luostarinmäki –a Handicrafts Museum of an Older Turku

After tea, we went to Turku for a tour of Luostarinmäki. According to the Turku tourist information booklet, Luostarinmäki hill was one of the few places that escaped the devastating fire of 1827. The huts, shops and houses are left mostly the way they were and display period furniture, occupations and tools, as well as the foods that would have been eaten at that time. We saw examples of many of the same foods we had just eaten over the last few days.

The fireplaces were large stucco affairs with room to put fire tools, wood storage and even let rounds of bread dry overhead. At one place there was a huge Bible on the table—of course it was in Finnish, an earlier form of it, I believe.

They had these full-sized beds which you could push the footboard closer to the headboard when the bed was not in use because some section of the bed was removable or foldable or something. These were remarkably ornate, but practical in such small spaces. Imagine having the marriage bed, pushed back as an accordion during an evening meal with guests, perhaps.

We got homemade peppermints wrapped in paper cones to munch on as we wandered from place to place in the rain. I was always getting behind, so Pasi hung back with me as I looked at things a little longer. Phil was able to keep up with the rest of the group and with Hunter.

At one point, everyone gathered in a tiny yard to listen to a men’s chorus sing carols. The men wore what looked like white gowns and wore paper hats much like we would fold out of newspaper, only these were folded out of more festive paper for Christmas. We watched them like this as the rain poured down, soaking them in their robes, disintegrating their paper hats, pasting their hair down over their faces—but they didn’t lose harmony and sounded wonderful. Meanwhile, we were getting drenched, having only one or two umbrellas between the 10 of us, so we finally went back to our cars and drove in the direction of the other family’s home.

We were glad to get out of our wet outer wear and wander around the beautiful, roomy, modern home of Monica’s friends (I’m feeling terribly that I can’t remember their names). They said they had designed the home themselves and it was quite impressive. Even more impressing to Hunter and myself was that year’s installment of a gingerbread house, the subject of which was the suggestion of their youngest son.

Pasi was sore about not being able to take us sledding due to the lack of snow. But we ended the day watching one of Pasi’s birthday gifts, “Shrek 3.”

Castles, Art and Shopping

The next day we split up again, the girls to view art at the Turku Art Museum while the boys went to the Turku Castle. Of course, I can’t tell you what the boys saw, because I wasn’t there. But Hunter still tells me things he saw and did at the Turku Castle—it made that much of an impression on him. Pasi and Monica had a nice, formal military wedding at the castle four years ago. How I wish we could have been there!

While Monica and my tastes in art are very different, we both agreed we loved it. We soaked it all in and at a similar pace, too. At one point, I was photographing (and taping) a few pieces of art when the woman guard came over and told me that I wasn’t to be photographing at all. Soon afterward, Monica told me she had been doing everything possible, by asking questions of the guard, etc. to distract her from noticing me. Thanks Monica!

We had in mind to have coffee in the museum café, but they were nearly out of everything and the music was loud. So, Monica walked me across the street and across the Aurajoki river by walking bridge to an old brick building. We walked through the doorway into a wonderful shopping and eating area with the atmosphere of the red brick and special lighting. There we ate some split pea soup, rolls and “pancakes” (dessert) with coffee. We enjoyed our chat, though Monica was wary of the characters eating at the tables nearby.

We enjoyed a little trinket shop with Disney Christmas decorations, nostalgia and retro pieces (Elvis and Marilyn, mostly). I was able to buy a thimble, some T-shirts and some post cards.

We walked down the street and peered in at closed galleries’ window displays, and even went into a few arts and crafts stores to enjoy their handiwork and displays. We checked out a Salvation Army store (whoo-hoo! a thrift store!). Monica made sure to show me the famous artists and designer shops in Turku. We enjoyed our womanly freedom while the boys wondered what took us so long, because it was soon going to be time to get in line at the ferry terminal.

Pasi had fixed a delicious slow-cooked moose stew over mashed potatoes, which we ate heartily. Not long after a quick dinner, we gathered our things from the apartment and packed the car.

We hated to leave our little home-away-from home and our family/friends. But it was time. No doubt, it was much needed time for Pasi and Monica to finally wind down from their careers and the busy-ness of hosting us! They were phenomenal hosts!

Ferry Ride

Remember our lovely ferry ride on a clear day at the beginning of this trip? Well, storm warnings were out and ferries were just now back in commission after a few days of being off of the water. It would be dark this time, too, because this was an overnight cruise.

Hunter, of course, wanted to run up and down the ferry and play in the play area, but we were all too aware that we had this time to sleep and none other. We let him play for ½ hour in the play area, then we retreated to our cabin.

This is what I said in an e-mail about the ferry ride, “when it was time to return on an all nighter with a sleeper cabin, we thought it would be pretty simple. Nevermind that Pasi said the wind shouldn't be as bad as the few days before when they had storm warnings out for the ferry companies.

“Ha. The wind was so bad, I was getting sea-sick in my [half-sleep]. There were times we listed so bad to the side (remember this ferry was almost as big as a cruise ship) that I wondered if we would continue falling into the sea. …four times that monstrosity actually jolted--jolted!--against a wave or something.”

What I didn’t say in that e-mail was that drunken young people yelled, screamed and laughed up and down the halls and in the cabins beside us all night. In the cabin on Phil’s side, a huge fight broke out that involved large objects against the walls, etc. It’s a wonder Hunter slept peacefully the whole time!

Back to the e-mail: “We had to be up by five a.m. to get to our car in time to drive off. It was a miserable sleeping night.

[The trip from Stockholm to Hollviken} “took us twelve hours to get home because we stopped a long while in a town Pasi and Monica recommended we see. Granna. There were three peppermint candy factories in that town on a lake larger than lake Coeur d'Alene. We enjoyed watching them make candy and walking around in the quaint neighborhood. We were home by 5 pm, but exhausted. Funny thing was that we worked hard to stay awake until the normal home bedtime and got to bed later than we expected.”

(The great thing about e-mail is that it is more condensed. I thought you’d appreciate that after this long post…)

An interesting detail I forgot to mention was that an overhead sign on the freeway home had collapsed onto the freeway. Busses and Semi's were stranded behind it. Our car was barely able to slip under it.

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